Traffic signals can turn red in N.Y.C. for no good reason

It turns out there’s a code on a traffic signal in New York City that turns the light red. When it’s red, the light goes on with the expectation that cars will probably be able to pass. That can be a problem — if not the “failsafe” measure the city hoped it would be, then certainly for safety: Cars already stop here, mostly because stop signs are on the other side of the building.

So why does the light go red? That’s still up for debate. In one interpretation, there are only two other appropriate types of red-lit crossings in the city: green and red. Red means traffic has slowed to a crawling speed, about four or five times slower than usual, so if you get a warning message on this light, it’s probably time to move over. Of course, the other interpretation is that the city has decided to use the flashing red as an all-purpose signal, because when you’re trying to get by, there is no real safety reason for it to turn the light red.

As for the pedestrians, they’re neither allowed to walk on the north curb nor on the south curb here. So if you’re trying to cross, it helps to use the walkway in the middle of the block.

This is actually the first time that Washingtonian Magazine has gotten access to the signal, and we don’t think it’s necessary to point out that its use as an impediment to pedestrian safety makes it look like Big Brother. If you have a question about this or any other Traffic Signals, email [email protected].

Leave a Comment